Ford's Shane Van Gisbergen topped the timesheets on Thursday at the Yas V8 400 season-opener in Abu Dhabi after two-time defending V8 Supercar Championship Series champion Jamie Whincup had a last-gasp lap disallowed for cutting a corner.
SP Tools Racing's Van Gisbergen's lap of 1 minute 58.2230 seconds, set with six minutes remaining in the session, looked to have been dislodged as the fastest time of the day after Whincup's final lap was a 1m 58.0990s just as the chequered flag was thrown.
"It was pretty cool," van Gisbergen said."The track has got a bit of everything. The firsts sector is quite open, there is the corkscrew in there but it really suited our car. We were quickest in the first sector but. It is really smooth, it is a nice track, the surface is pretty easy on the tyres and the grip level is I would say medium.
"It is just amazing the track. It is awesome. At the end there it just cooled down so quickly when the sun went down. On our second last run I had the sun in my eyes and the next one the lights were on. That was amazing as I haven't had that anywhere else. Tomorrow night is going to be awesome as well racing in the dark."
More than half an hour after the completion of the session, Whincup's lap was disallowed, and the reigning title-holder finished the session in 10th place. It was still a productive day for the champion.
"To be honest I am slightly surprised myself. We didn't have the best test days, but the couple of days off that the guys had cruising round the hotel they could actually, instead of building cars, look at a bit of data and try to go fast," Whincup said.
"We have come a long way in the last couple of days as far as car set up goes, and yes very surprised that we have debuted a brand new car and it is quickest in practice. But I am completely aware that there is a long way to go. Although the car is quick there is still a big question mark over its race pace and we will find out tomorrow."
Behind van Gisbergen was Whincup's teammate Craig Lowndes, almost two-tenths of a second adrift, while Ford's Mark Winterbottom (Ford Performance Racing), stablemate Alex Davison (Irwin Racing) and Holden's Jason Bright (Trading Post Racing) rounded out the top five, all of whom were within a second of Van Gisbergen's benchmark time.
The second 40-minute session featuring the entire field was interrupted for nine minutes just before the halfway stage, as Ford's Tim Slade was forced to park his Wilson Security Racing entry on the inside of Turn 4 with smoke billowing from beneath the left side of the car. The potentially dangerous position of Slade's car forced a red flag.